Empire of Things

The following are two excerpts from Prof Frank Trentmann‘s new book, Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (UK: Allen Lane, 2016; USA: HarperCollins, 2016), cross-posted from BirkbeckIn the book, Prof. Trentmann unfolds the extraordinary history that has shaped our material world, from late Ming China, Renaissance Italy and the British empire to the present. 

EmpireOfThings_MockUp_Front - Copy (2)Introduction

We live surrounded by things. A typical German owns 10,000 objects. In Los Angeles, a middle-class garage often no longer houses a car but several hundred boxes of stuff. The United Kingdom in 2013 was home to 6 billion items of clothing, roughly a hundred per adult; a quarter of these never leave the wardrobe. Of course, people always had things, and used them not only to survive but for ritual, display and fun. But the possessions in a pre-modern village or an indigenous tribe pale when placed next to the growing mountain of things in advanced societies like ours. Continue reading “Empire of Things”